Dog owners have a legal responsibility to prevent their pets from harming or injuring others. The owner’s liability insurance may cover the costs or they may have to reimburse the victim for damages their pet caused, including medical expenses and lost wages resulting from time away from work.  While the results of a dog bite lawsuit vary, there are many states and municipalities with laws governing who is responsible in which circumstances. For dog bite claims there are two kinds of liability: civil and criminal.

Civil Liability

There are three different laws that make an owner liable in a civil lawsuit when their dog bites or injures a person:

1.) A dog bite statute

37 US states, including Georgia, have liability laws that strictly hold owners financially responsible for dog bites. These laws apply regardless of any carelessness or bite history. 

2.) One bite rule

In states without strict liability laws, the “One Bite Rule” is applied. In these situations, if a victim can prove that the owner knew the dog had a tendency to bite, attack, or cause a similar injury, the owner is liable. This makes owners responsible for injuries when they knew that their dog was capable or likely to hurt someone. There are 13 states, not including Georgia, where the one-bite law is in place instead of strict liability laws. 

3.) Negligence laws

If a victim can prove that a dog bite occurred because the owner was negligent or unreasonably careless, the owner will be held responsible for the injury. For example, if an owner leaves a gate open containing their dog, or allows the dog to roam without a leash in violation of local leash laws. The state of Geogia has strict liability laws and negligence laws to protect victims of dog bite accidents. 

Sometimes dog owners can avoid civil liability in any and all of the previous cases. When a dog bite victim is partially at fault, state laws can greatly reduce an owner’s liability. Even in states with strict liability laws, an owner is not liable if the dog attack was provoked or if the victim was trespassing at the time of the injury. 

Criminal Liability

41 States have “Dangerous Dog Laws”, including Georgia, where courts require owners to take special measures once their dog (or another animal) has attacked or injured someone. Sometimes a court will require that a dog be euthanized if it has hurt or killed someone and continues to pose serious harm. If an owner does not cooperate with a judge’s ruling in these situations, they could face criminal charges. There are also many similar city, county, and municipal ordinances that pertain to dangerous dogs.

There are 9 states where there are no “Dangerous Dog Laws”:

Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Utah, and Wisconsin

Criminal dog bite cases are incredibly rare but can happen. According to the Insurance Information Institute:

“In a 2002 California case, a woman and her husband were tried for second-degree murder after their Presa Canario dogs attacked and killed a neighbor. The woman was convicted of second-degree murder and her husband was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. This was only the third time that dog owners were tried for murder in the U.S. The first case was in Kansas in 1997.”

 

Dog Bite Liability Laws in Georgia

In the state of Georgia, there are more than 488 dog bite cases every year, according to the Insurance Information Institute. There are also many laws and statutes to govern dog bite liability. 

Dangerous Dog Laws in Georgia

Georgia law defines a dangerous dog as:

  • “Any dog that causes a substantial puncture of a person’s skin by teeth without causing serious injury.”
  • “Any dog that aggressively attacks in a manner that causes a person to reasonably believe that the dog posed an imminent threat of serious injury to such person or another person although no such injury occurs.”
  • “While off the owner’s property, kills a pet animal.”

The law requires that a judge may order euthanasia of any dog which has seriously injured or presents a danger to any person on one or more than one occasion. 

There is also a felony charge of $5,000 to $10,000 in fines and or 1 to 5 years of prison for an owner with a previous conviction of violating Georgia’s dog laws, who has a Dangerous dog that causes serious injury to a person. 

 

Steps to take when a dog has hurt you:

Gather the names, phone numbers, and any other information of the owner

This is will help you to report and follow up with the dog owner after the attack has occurred.

Gather the names, phone numbers, and any other information of any witnesses

While not always necessary, eyewitnesses accounts are crucial for establishing your case in a personal injury dog bite lawsuit.

Take pictures 

Take as many pictures as you can at the scene of the accident and of any injuries over time. These images can be used as evidence in a personal injury dog bite claim.

Report the accident to local authorities

Getting the authorities involved helps hold the owner accountable for the accident and can provide evidence for a dog bite claim. Additionally, reporting a potentially “Dangerous Dog” will help to establish a record for any future injuries or attacks by this same dog.

Get immediate medical attention, if necessary

Seeing a doctor and keeping medical records of any injuries can be used as evidence in a personal injury dog bite claim.

Speaking with an Attorney

If you or someone you know has been bitten or injured by a dog, consider speaking to an experienced personal injury attorney. By taking action quickly, you can learn about what local laws apply to your situation and how you can seek reimbursement and justice. 

Call 678-819-5200 for your free consultation today.